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Blue Jackets hurt by lack of killer instinct against Capitals in playoffs

Inability to finish, subpar special teams, goaltending led to elimination

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

The Columbus Blue Jackets were in position to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time heading home after two overtime wins at the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round.

But the euphoria turned into another spring of disappointment when the Capitals won the next four games, including Game 3 in double overtime and Game 5 in overtime, to eliminate the Blue Jackets in six.

Columbus has lost all four playoff series in its history and has an all-time record of 5-16, including 2-8 at home. It has allowed at least three goals in all 21 postseason games.

There was progress, beginning with qualifying for the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time.

When forward Artemi Panarin scored at 6:02 of overtime in Game 1, it was the first time the Blue Jackets ever led a series. Forward Matt Calvert scored the overtime winner in Game 2 before it all fell apart.

Here are 5 reasons why the Blue Jackets were eliminated:


[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]


1. Unable to finish job

The Blue Jackets had the Capitals on the ropes in Game 3; Panarin nearly scored the go-ahead goal with 1:15 left in the third period, but his shot hit the post. It was the same for Cam Atkinson in overtime, and Washington took advantage when center Lars Eller scored for a 3-2 win.

In Game 5, the Blue Jackets outshot the Capitals 16-1 in the third, and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the tying goal, but  Nicklas Backstrom won it in overtime for Washington, which took a 3-2 series lead.

"I look at those two games and we just couldn't get the next goal," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "Game 3 was a really good game played by us, and them too. But Game 5 in the third period we have some chances and don't get it done, and they find a way to win."

Video: The crew on the Blue Jackets being eliminated


2. Special teams failure 

Columbus took 251 penalties during the regular season (3.06 per game), second-fewest in the NHL to the Carolina Hurricanes (227). The Blue Jackets were called for 28 penalties (4.66) against the Capitals, who scored on one-third of their power plays (9-for-27).

The Blue Jackets scored on four of their first seven power plays, but once goaltender Braden Holtby replaced Philipp Grubauer for Washington to start the third period of Game 2, they went 0-for-17 and Holtby stopped all 19 shots by Columbus with the man-advantage.

"At the beginning of the series our power play was going," Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno said. "We scored at will, and for whatever reason it dried. We've got to figure that out. That's something that wins you hockey games when you're not at your best."


3. No room at the top

The Blue Jackets' top line of Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Atkinson had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in the first three games, but one point, a Dubois goal in Game 6, in the next three.

Washington defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen hounded Panarin.

"I could feel someone was always right beside me, especially on the power play," Panarin said after Game 6.


4. Running on empty

Columbus took pride in comebacks during the regular season, particularly during a 10-game winning streak down the stretch. That strategy didn't work against Washington, which scored first in five of the six games. The Blue Jackets led for 20:47 in the series.

"It takes a lot out of you," Columbus defenseman Seth Jones said. "We've been doing it all year. That's how we got in the playoffs, playing from behind the last two months of the season.

"We took all the chances and they made us pay. That's what a good team will do to you. It is tough to expend a lot of energy to come back from two or three goals every game."


5. Bobrovsky up and down

Sergei Bobrovsky was spectacular at times and made 54 saves in Game 2 to bail out a leaky defense, but he allowed too many stoppable shots to go in.

He had a 3.18 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in the series. He is 5-14 with 3.49 GAA and .891 save percentage in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Video: WSH@CBJ, Gm6: Capitals, Jackets exchange handshakes



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